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Equality Week at BGS

This week (commencing Monday 3 February) is Equality Week at BGS. Now in its third consecutive year, this student-led initiative is organised by the BGS Equality Society. Two members, Esther and Jasleen, explain the motivation behind the event and what its aims are.

We started Equality Society in 2017. We felt that students needed a place to talk about both local and global issues that they felt passionately about particularly feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, BAME rights and animal rights. Over the next year, we saw more and more how these issues affected students at BGS through homophobic, sexist and racist comments, and we wanted to change these attitudes and the BGS community. From this came the idea to create Equality Week so that we could educate and impact the wider school community. Over our past two years we have fund-raised for Diversity Role Models, a non-profit organisation that works to tackle homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools, and TIGER (teaching individuals gender equality and respect) and also enjoyed talks from groups such as Unity Youth Forum and Anonymous for the Voiceless.

This week the School is again holding Equality Week, now in its third consecutive year. We are fundraising to support Project Zazi which focuses on the BAME experience around mental health and wellbeing, to empower young people to create positive social change. There will be bake sales outside the PAB every day to raise money for this great cause. A representative from Project Zazi will be coming in to share information about the project.

There will be talks from a variety of guest speakers including a talk from Anonymous for the Voiceless (who will be discussing issues of animal rights) and the national organisation Stand Up To Racism. We are also incredibly fortunate to have Jane Couch MBE giving a talk – the first female boxer to be awarded a licence in the UK. Before her landmark legal case in 1998, women were not allowed to box in the UK. Jane will be reflecting on her experience of being a breakthrough female in the sporting world.

There will be House assemblies focusing on the advances made in Equality over the last decade, focusing on attitudes and legal progress, as well as looking at the biggest issues that are facing us going forward. The Equality Society will also be delivering a whole school assembly featuring an amalgamation of perspectives on modern day issues of Equality: freedom of speech; respect for others ideas and rights; LGBTQ+ rights; animal rights; disability discrimination; racism; sex discrimination and gender stereotyping. We hope that this range of topics will give our audience a broader insight into some of the challenges that we are facing today in terms of Equality. It’s our hope that they may hear something they didn’t know, or something that they want to challenge, and that this will start a conversation.

Change is often sparked by conversations and debates. It’s what led to mainstream movements such as the civil rights movement or the suffragettes. On a more local level, it was a conversation in a lesson three years ago that led to the Equality Society being set up within School. Three years on, we have delivered three whole school assemblies, eighteen House assemblies, organised twelve guest speakers and raised over £1,000 for equality-related charities. All this came from a conversation between two Year 8 students, three years ago, during a lesson. This just proves that real change can be started by a simple conversation. We are trying to encourage conversations with family and friends about some of these global issues so that we can learn from each other and become involved, as a community, in the local and global action that promotes equality, which in turn, can lead to more positive change.

Esther and Jasleen